A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 23, 2009
Melba Toast (Toast Melba)

Entry in progress—B.P.


Wikipedia: Melba toast
Melba toast is a very dry, crisp, thinly sliced toast often served with soups and salads or topped with either melted cheese or pâté. It is named after Dame Nellie Melba, the stage name of Australian opera singer Helen Porter Mitchell. The term is thought to date from 1897, when the singer was very ill and it became a staple of her diet. The toast was created for her by chef (and fan) Auguste Escoffier, who also created the Peach Melba dessert. The hotel proprietor César Ritz supposedly named it in a conversation with Escoffier.

Melba toast is usually made by lightly toasting bread in the normal way of making toast. Once the outside of the bread is slightly firm, it is removed from the toaster and then each slice is cut laterally with a bread knife to make two slices that are half the original thickness of the bread. These two thin slices are then toasted again to make Melba Toast.

Wikipedia: Nellie Melba
Dame Nellie Melba GBE (19 May 1861 – 23 February 1931), born Helen Porter Mitchell, was an Australian opera soprano and one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian Era and the 20th century. Melba was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical vocalist. She was also one of the first stage performers (along with Dame May Whitty) to be made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire.
(...)
Her name is associated with four foods, all of which were created by the French chef Auguste Escoffier:

. Peach Melba, a dessert
. Melba sauce, a sweet purée of raspberries and redcurrant
. Melba toast, a crisp dry toast
. Melba Garniture, chicken, truffles and mushrooms stuffed into tomatoes with velouté.

Wikipedia; August Escoffier
Georges Auguste Escoffier (28 October 1846 – 12 February 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He is a near-legendary figure among chefs and gourmets, and was one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine. Much of Escoffier’s technique was based on that of Antoine Carême, one of the codifiers of French Haute cuisine, but Escoffier’s achievement was to simplify and modernize Carême’s elaborate and ornate style.

Alongside the recipes he recorded and invented, another of Escoffier’s contributions to cooking was to elevate it to the status of a respected profession, introducing organized discipline to his kitchens. He organized his kitchens by the brigade de cuisine system, with each section run by a chef de partie.

Escoffier published Le Guide Culinaire, which is still used as a major reference work, both in the form of a cookbook and a textbook on cooking.
(...)
César Ritz and the London Savoy
During the summers he ran the kitchen of the Hotel National in Lucerne, where he met César Ritz (at that time the French Riviera was a winter resort). The two men formed a partnership and in 1890 moved to the Savoy Hotel in London. From this base they established a number of famous hotels, including the Grand Hotel in Rome, and numerous Ritz Hotels around the world.

At the London Savoy, Escoffier created many famous dishes. For example, in 1893 he invented the Pêche Melba in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba, and in 1897, Melba toast.

wiseGEEK
What is Melba Toast?
Melba toast is a thin, crisp toast that is now packaged and sold in stores next to crisp breads and crackers. Auguste Escoffier created Melba toast. He was a friend of Swiss hotelkeeper Cesar Ritz and his wife, Marie Ritz. When Marie commented that she could never find thin enough toast, Escoffier invented what is now known as Melba toast, and called it “Toast Marie” after his friend’s wife. Escoffier renamed it “Melba” toast when he was working with Cesar Ritz at London’s Savoy Hotel and Dame Nellie Melba was staying there.

It was reported that singer Dame Nellie Melba ate Melba toast regularly when she was sick in 1897. Helen Porter Mitchell is the real name of Dame Nellie Melba, who formed the surname of her stage name from her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Peach Melba is another food that was named after the opera star. Apparently, Marie Ritz, understanding the hotel business, did not mind having her “Toast Marie” changed to Melba toast. After her husband Auguste died, Marie ran Paris’s Ritz Hotel.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Main Entry: mel·ba toast
Pronunciation: \ˈmel-bə-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Nellie Melba
Date: 1925
: very thin crisp toast

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Melba, n.
[< Nellie Melba, stage name adopted by Helen Porter Mitchell (1861-1931), Australian operatic soprano, who gained worldwide fame for her coloratura singing; Melba is shortened < the name of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, Australia, where the singer was born and made her concert debut. Used attributively and as postmodifier designating dishes named in her honour, especially PEACH MELBA n.; compare French Melba, in e.g. pêche à la Melba, pêche Melba PÊCHE MELBA n.
Escoffier is said to have created toast Melba in 1897 (see quot. 1938 for Melba toast n.).
Nellie Melba was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1918, and continued to perform during her retirement years.]
Melba toast n. (also toast Melba) thinly sliced bread toasted or baked until dry and crisp; esp. bread sliced thinly, toasted, then cut into even thinner slices and toasted on the untoasted side.
1924 M. ARLEN Green Hat ix. 265 She was buttering a piece of toast Melba about half an inch square.
1925 I. C. B. ALLEN Mrs. Allen on Cooking xii. 222 Patti Bread or Melba Toast.
1938 M. L. RITZ César Ritz xiv. 204 Toast thin slices of bread once, then cut it through again, and again toast it… The result was Escoffier’s justly famous toast Melba… During that year [sc. 1897] Melba had returned from America very ill… I had heard Escoffier discuss her régime. Dry toast figured on it… ‘Call it toast Melba,’ I said.
1972 S. ATTERBURY Waste Not—Want Not 142 The Slow Cooking Method is ideal for Melba toast.
1995 Independent 4 Mar. 32/3 The Savoy continues with its tradition of serving Melba toast wrapped in a pink linen napkin as an appetizer before lunch and dinner. It even employs someone with the job title ‘Melba toast man’, whose task it is to make it every morning.

Google Books
March 1912, Interstate Medical Journal, pg. 195:
Breakfast biscuit or one piece toast Melba.

Google Books
Rainbow’s End
By Rex Beach
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
1916
Pg. 219:
“Some oysters,” Branch insisted, stubbornly. “After that, a cup of chicken broth, a grilled sweetbread, and toast Melba.”

23 September 1916, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 8:
Breakfast, as It Is and
Was, in New York City.

Jane Dixon in the New York Evening Sun.
(...)
With many New Yorkers the continental breakfast, consisting of a roll and a cup of coffee, is considered quite the thing. While Susan, out on the farm, is packing away sausage cakes and corn pone, Suzanne, up in the city, is lolling back against the pillows enjoying her toast Melba and mocha.

Google Books
Dr. G. Herschell’s Textbook of Indigestion
By Adolphe Abrahams and George Herschell
New York, NY: Longman’s Green & Company
1920
Pg. 101:
...a breakfast biscuit or a piece of toast Melba (toast split into two pieces and re-toasted);...

10 October 1920, Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 32 ad:
Newhouse Hotel
Table d’Hote Dinner, $1.25

Sunday, October 10, 1920.
(...)
Melba Toast

4 January 1921, Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 4, col. 1:
NEWHOUSE HOTEL
Table d’Hote Dinner
(...)
Melba Toast

19 June 1922, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, pg. 12, col. 4 ad:
FOR dainty sandwiches, for cinnamon toast, for crisp toast Melba that one likes to serve with tea, one must choose a bread of a solid, firm texture.
("White Rose, the Master Loaf of the Six Bakers”—ed.)

Google Books
César Ritz:
Host to the World

By Marie Louise Ritz
“First published 1938. This edition specially produced by The Bodley Head Ltd for The Hotel Ritz, Paris, 1981"--cf. verso t.p.
Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Co.
1938
Pg. ?
“Behold! A new dish, and it is called Toast Marie.” But as I ate it I tried to think up another name. Marie was far too anonymous to suit me.

During that year Melba had returned from America very ill. She was staying at the Savoy…

Google Books
Escoffier: The King of Chefs
By Kenneth James
Hambledon & London
2006
Pg. 163:
According to Marie, Melba Toast was invented by her husband and named by her. But it has come down to us as an Escoffier first. It’s too simple a fabrication to squabble over, but it was unlikely to have been a new concept anyway. Many a housewife must have made thin curly toast that way before. In any case, the formula was given more than four hundred years earlier by Platina.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Sunday, August 23, 2009 • Permalink